Tory Lanez Talks SwaveNation, Al Pacino & Valentine’s Day [TMN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW]

Ever since Kanye West dropped 808s & Heartbreaks it seems as if the line between rapper and singer has become increasingly blurred. Guys who followed his lead, like Drake and Kid Cudi, only pushed the boundary further, influencing a whole generation of up and coming artists who now take inspiration from their examples. Similarly, the idea of a rapper-producer is no longer a foreign concept either. J. Cole and Big K.R.I.T. are two names that come to mind in that realm. Because of this, the whole idea of an artist becoming completely self sufficient is no longer entirely novel. Until now though, it can be argued we had never encountered anyone who was equally talented at all aspects of their craft. That’s where Tory Lanez comes in.

As a musician, Tory refuses to be classified. While all of the artists we mentioned are probably best known for one aspect of their skill sets, Tory prefers to be recognized for everything he does. Rather than being known as a rapper or a singer, for lack of a better term, Tory classifies his music as “Swavey,” which is basically the idea of fusing together all aspects of his art and striving to be the best at everything.

The Toronto native has been labeled “next” for quite awhile now. While that term is vague to begin with, there is no doubt that a certain level of expectation comes with the title. To his credit though, Tory never lets any of that get to his head. If you ever have the chance to watch him live, you’ll notice that he has undeniable charisma, and brings a raw energy to his performances, yet he still retains a certain sense of humility that keeps him grounded through it all. What’s even more special though is that Tory doesn’t draw a line between him and his fans, instead choosing to embrace them as family. After each show he’ll hold meet and greet session where he gives everybody the time of day–no rushed photographs, no quick autographs, no fake smiles. He will have legitimate conversations with every single person until he is essentially forced out of the venue.

Before his recent show in Chicago, we had a chance to catch up with Tory and discuss his upbringing, his mindset in the studio, and find out what truly separates him from the rest of the pack. If you have the opportunity to check out Tory live, we highly recommend it. His next show is this Sunday in Denver, but you can find the remaining dates for his Lost Cause tour on his official website.

’Tory Lanez – Diego (Prod. Tory Lanez x Play Picasso x Ozhora Miyagi x Mr. Punisher)’

TMN: This is basically the second leg of your Lost Cause tour, with the first ending last fall. How has the experience been so far, and what does it feel like to be headlining your own shows?

Tory Lanez: It feels amazing man. This is the second leg, so basically the second tour I’ve ever really headlined myself, and I’m just blessed to see fans–well, I should never call them fans, I always make that mistake. I’m so sorry to the SwaveNation for that. I call them citizens, and I’m glad to see citizens in every place. It shows me that this SwaveNation thing is really real, it’s really a nation. When I see so many different people in different spots, it’s like we’re really all a movement, so it’s just a blessing to be in my own setting, to inspire them and to lead them with direction when I go onstage.


TMN: You’ve said in the past your name Lanez was inspired by some of your antics as a kid running through traffic and just being overall reckless, but more appropriately now it can describe the way you operate in multiple different lanes: writing, rapping, singing, production. Of all the talents you possess though, which one do you think gets the most slept on?

TL: Sometimes I think my production gets slept on. I think people don’t understand how much I really put into the production that you guys hear. I’m just a very generous person, so a lot of the time even if (another producer) were to ever bring an idea to the table and ask me to change it all completely around to the point where it sounds nothing like it (did before), I’ll still give that person credit for that (ahead of myself).
Just as a producer myself too, if you really listen to the music, you’ll realize what every one of those producers who are not alike have in common when they work with me. Most of these producers don’t produce alike, so if there’s ever a sound that these producers come together and make, and it sounds alike, and it’s at two separate times and on different records, they’re gonna hear that Lanez influence.

I would like to say my directing too. I direct all my videos. It’s the same thing. I will never take credit (away) from people, or I don’t ever really take that much credit when I do something too. Because sometimes, I just want the other person to get that. You know, I’m not hungry for (attention), but at the same time, I do direct–

TMN: You have your hand in everything.

TL: Everything. I’m editing, I’m selecting shot by shot, I’m talking about what needs to be cropped out–I’m really into it. Directing, making the whole storyline, acting, directing photography, the way everything is staged in the shot, the way the lighting looks, that’s me. I’m behind the scenes on all that stuff. I just put that work in.

TMN: A lot of people know you as a dude from Toronto, but what they don’t know is that you spent a good majority of your childhood moving around the U.S. How do you think those experiences in different surroundings shaped you as a person, and helped you grow as an artist?

TL: I think just being in different areas, you get the influence from everywhere you grow up and everywhere that you see the cultures in. I see cultures in Canada, I see the culture in Miami, I see the culture in Atlanta and I go to New York, I go to Texas, I’ve lived in all these places, so I’ve gathered things. It’s just things that you take from everywhere, and they help to mold you with not only your music, but who you are as a person. And who I am as a person reflects in my music.

’Tory Lanez – Gold (Prod.Tory Lanez x Noah Breakfast x Play Picasso)’

TMN: You grew up as a preacher’s son, which a lot of people would be surprised to hear. But how would you say that environment lended itself to your music?

TL: You know, my dad was a very famous dancer in his time actually, before he started preaching. He was an entertainer as well, so my dad kind of understands that God has a certain purpose for me in my life. And even though I might be in this world right now, he knows that it’s all going to go together for the good and grace of God. He’s never ever been in one of those situations where he just felt like “No you shouldn’t do that.” He always challenged me to be better and supported me. And a couple of times, we’ve been split from each other because I was just very rebellious and I had to take some time to myself. But basically, in those times he always stayed in contact with me and always gave me wisdom, and understanding and knowledge, and stuff like that. I mean it influenced me in a good way, and it helps me even while I’m in the industry–just how to deal with people, how to talk to people, treat people with respect and be humble.

TMN: You’ve released quite a few mixtapes so far in your career, but to me, Lost Cause felt like your coming out party, almost like a true debut album. I think part of that is due to the lack of features, on the project. Was that a conscious decision on your part, and what was different about the approach you took when recording this project?

TL: I didn’t want anybody on it. I didn’t want to feature anybody, I didn’t want anybody to speak their stories. The project really wasn’t for anybody. I didn’t make it for the public. I made it as a challenge to myself to make some music that’s more honest to myself.
I’ve always had real music. In my music I’ve never really lied. Certain things you fabricate out of not having it–that’s just as a rapper, that’s everybody, that’s hip-hop. I just wanted this one to be very honest and now that I do have things, I look at those situations back when I didn’t have it, and I’m like why was I trying to front? Like who gives a fuck? It really wasn’t that serious of a deal. You know what I’m saying? I just thought it was serious, and I wanted to share that light with people and bring them back to the times where I didn’t have things. And I’m going to continue to do that. It’s about relating to people, and people being able to relate to your story. I just wanted to give them all me.

TMN: That’s definitely respectable, because a lot of people in your position would be trying to get as many features/co-signs as possible.

TL: I don’t feel like I need (anyone). You know, a lot of people–I’m not ever going to say any names because I’m not petty like that–but a lot of people left me for dead. Cause you gotta remember I was still signed years ago. All these people that are starting to pop now, I still knew all these people back then. People I had real conversations with like, “Yo my nigga, I really believe that you’re going to be incredible” and people saying the same thing back to me. And people saying this is this, and this is that, and me coming back and being like “Ok, you know, we’ll build on this.”

Then me falling down and seeing these people not really give a fuck, and you know that’s just life. You think some people are whatever the case is, and then you find out that they’re not. That’s why to me, it’s just like inevitably, when you’re hot, they’re gonna be there, they’re gonna be around. They’re gonna be in your face. But with me, I’m just cool, I’m good, I know who I am, and I know who was with me when I wasn’t shit, and I don’t change like most people. I just show love, that’s it.

TMN: On Lost Cause, you were able to team up with an interesting lineup of producers, including Noah Breakfast, RL Grime, and Ryan Hemsworth. Creatively, that group is really diverse, yet Lost Cause had a cohesive sound as a whole. How did you decide on who to collaborate with, and how were you able to drive the sonic direction of the project?

TL: Well, like I said, that cohesive sound is my sound. A lot of the time I bring dudes into my sound. It’s the best of both worlds. Because I still take things from their side, and they take things from my side, and they go back and make productions, and I go back and make productions…

TMN: You learn from each other.

TL: Yeah, exactly. I learn. And I think everybody came with their selective pieces of what they thought was real, and everyone added, and I just kept it going. I just kept it rocking. Me and Play Picasso, we take these pieces and I’ll do what I do with them. Play Picasso is really like–you see how Drake got like 40? Play Picasso is like my 40. He engineers everything, he mixes and masters, he produces. There’s no one hotter than Play Picasso. I don’t care quite frankly what anybody has to say, as far as production goes, there’s no one hotter. No one hotter. Like ever. I’ve seen this kid through things that are just ridiculous, and I’m not putting anybody else down. I’m sure that in time I’m going to meet other people that I feel strongly about of course, but Play is just, Picasso baby. You know what I’m saying? (Laughs) We came up together.

’Tory Lanez – Mama Told Me (Prod. Ryan Hemsworth x Tory Lanez X Play Picasso)’

TMN: You start off “Mama Told Me” with the line “My mama always told me I would have the hits. / She wasn’t alive to see me have a hit.” The rest of the song kind of goes on to describe your tough upbringing. Many people might not know your mom passed away at a young age from a rare disease. Was that a really emotional record for you to write?

TL: No, it wasn’t really emotional. It was more reminiscing on what she told me and just staying strong and triumphant through bad times. It’s just real things man. That was back when like I said, “My mama always told me I would have the hits. She wasn’t alive to see me have a hit. Had to make decisions, go and hit the road. That was back when Keisha nearly had a kid.” It was just a very strong record, but it wasn’t emotional. I was more happy to do it.

TMN: Being that you’re from Toronto, when many people hear you, they tend to make the comparison to Drake, The Weeknd, etc. But what would would you say to those comparisons, and what do you think truly sets you apart from anyone else?

TL:  I sound like me. Point, blank, period. That’s the answer to both questions. I sound like me. People are always going to compare this, compare that.
Sometimes I think that a lot of it is the production that comes out of Toronto. A lot of our beats, just in general, we have very airy feeling beats–

TMN: It’s kind of like a darker sound, there’s a certain aesthetic to it.

TL: Yeah, and you know that’s a Canadian thing. That’s just the music that we produce out here. It’s the kids we are. At the end of the day, everybody loves good music, and people are going to say what they want to say. I think sometimes people are just very skeptical, and they need something to say this is like this, because they’ve just never heard anything like it you know? But I’m used to people telling me I sound like whoever they want to tell me I sound like. You know, in general, I think some of the rap game sounds like me to be honest with you. I think a lot of these niggas sound like me. I mean, I write for a lot of them, but hey, that’s fine you know. That’s cool.

TMN: A couple years ago in a piece you did for Pigeons & Planes you explained that you’d never purchased an album before because you want yours to be the first one. Does that statement still hold true, and if so, when can we expect that first purchase to be made?

TL: Very, very soon man. That’s how I feel. I’m working on a project. I promise there’s a few huge surprises that people just don’t know, and I’m very happy about that. But you know, let time be time. You know, who knows?

TMN: Is there one dream collaboration for you? Someone that you’d want to work with who stands above the rest?

TL: Right now in this era of time?

TMN: Yeah, or in the past too. Maybe both?

TL: Ok, past and present. At this point, I really just want to work with Drake… Actually, I really want to work with Kanye. You know, of course Drake as well, but Kanye is one of my favorites of all time. I think from the past, I just want to work with Tupac, and I love 50 Cent. I think that nigga is the illest nigga alive. Oh yeah, Uncle Snoop! My uncle Snoop. You know what I’m saying?


TMN: Now you like to call your fans citizens of Swave Nation. Just like you have to take an exam to gain citizenship in the US though, what are the requirements to become a full fledged citizen in Swave Nation?

TL: You just need to believe that you’re a citizen, and that you’re a person that has no borders to anything you choose to do. The spiel of it is, that you’re a person that no matter what you put your head to, you could fuse all the things you like, you could take all those things, and you could be different. Be you, be yourself with it, with no boundaries or borders that stop you from doing what you do.

TMN: You’ve used the term “Swavey” to describe your music because there really are no true descriptors for it. But, I’ve also seen you refer to it as a mindset.

TL: Yeah, I don’t deal with hip-hop, or R&B, or anything like that. My genre is Swavey music. And that means I sing, I rap, I do more than one (thing). Swavey is fusing all the different cultures of whatever you do and being able to do all aspects of it. Being able to be different and still be you while you do it. You should never have to switch your personality for a record, or for the sound of the record. You should always be you when you do things. Do them as yourself.

’Tory Lanez – Priceless (Prod. Daniel Worthy x Tory Lanez x Burd Keyz)’

TMN: What’s something on your iPod/iPhone that people would be surprised to find out you listen to?

TL: I listen to a shit load of JMSN. I also listen to Toro y Moi. Listen to some Coldplay, there’s some things in there.

TMN: We know you’re a big fan of Al Pacino movies, just judging by your songs, but if you could relate better to one Pacino character, would it be Michael Corleone or Tony Montana?

TL: Tony Montana, because I feel like he felt. I feel like the immigrant, who comes to America, and feels like this town is one big pussy waiting to get fucked.

TMN: Living in Miami…

Living in Miami, and I came up from the bottom.

TMN: One last question. With Valentine’s Day coming up, do you have any tips for any ninjas out there still looking for a date?

TL: Umm, wear a hat. (Laughs) Nah, I’m joking. I mean, just never be too anxious and never be too laidback. Gotta be right in the middle. Just be yourself.

We’d like to thank Tory for taking the time out to talk to us. Tory is currently in the middle of an 18 date tour throughout much of the U.S. and Canada. Make sure to check him out live, and if you have still haven’t listened to his Lost Cause mixtape, do yourself a favor and download a copy today.